WHAT IS PTSD
PTSD is a disorder caused by the involvement in or exposure to a traumatic event. In a normal situation, the brain will switch the body from "survival mode" to a state of restoration, but PTSD is when that switch never occurs, leaving the survivor in a constant state of emergency. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can happen in the aftermath of any traumatic experience, and it is for this reason that 7 out of 10 psychologically abused women develop PTSD. Veterans who return from war with PTSD suffer from the same disorder to the same severity as many victims abused in their own homes. However, the utilization of service dogs to serve those with PTSD has historically only been used for veterans, leaving others who suffer with fewer options. That's where we come in.
The Brain is Separated Into 3 Parts
Neomammalian: The front brain, controls cognitive processing, decisions-making, learning, memory and inhibitory functions.
Mammalian: The midlevel brain, processes emotions and conveys sensory relays
Reptilian: The innermost part of the brain responsible for survival and autonomic body processes
PTSD happens here
When your brain functions without trauma, it goes in a "top down" direction of processing. You're thinking regularly and taking in information. When you're thinking this way things feel neutral, and aren't particularly emotionally charged or frightening.
When something traumatic happens our brains switch into "survival mode", meaning that the reactive parts of your
brain take over. Your body therefore prepares you for fight or flight, and you have little control over what you do because the less cognizant parts of your brain take over.
Typically when our fight or flight is triggered our brains go from reactive to responsive and things continue as usual. With PTSD, the shift from reactive to responsive never occurs. Instead the reptilian brain holds the survivor in a reactive state.
If you think about the last time that you were terrified to the point of fight or flight being triggered, all of these symptoms make a lot of sense.
NEGATIVE CHANGES IN BELIEFS OR FEELINGS
Loss of loving feelings
Forgetting parts about the traumatic events or not being able to talk about them
Feeling the whole world is dangerous and no one is trushworthy
Inability to sleep or relax
HOW WE HELP
PTSD is reinforced by what's called a "trauma feedback loop," which means that when there's trigger (something to cause a flashback or a panic attack related to the trauma), we relive the trauma, and we tend to avoid the thing that caused the trigger. For example, if something traumatic happened in a coffee shop, the sound of a coffee grinder might be a trigger. Then it might escalate, become the smell of coffee, and so on, so forth. Before we know it we're avoiding everything to do with coffee, but the symptoms of PTSD still exist. The more this cycle continues, the more PTSD is enforced near the base of the brain. In order for PTSD to be recovered from, the traumatic memories need to be processed by the higher parts of the brain, and that can't be done while the cycle is constantly repeating itself. For PTSD to be recovered from, the cycle must be interrupted.
WE INTERRUPT HERE
POOR MEMORY CONSOLIDATION
Yes, dogs are cute and awesome. But our service dogs are so much more than that to survivors. We train each dog for one survivor, tailored to that survivor's triggers and nightmares, and train the dog to interrupt them. Each time the cycle of trauma is interrupted, PTSD becomes that much less enforced. We also teach the survivors ways to aid themselves in their own healing process. The dog and the survivor work together in our program, leading to better memory consolidation on behalf of the survivor and therefore taking a practical and scientific approach to recovering from PTSD.
We are a nonprofit and work entirely off of donations so that we don't have to charge survivors for the help they need. There's lots of ways you can help, even if you can't make a donation.
If you're a survivor and interested in being a part of our program, we'd love to hear from you! You're the reason we exist, and we're happy to answer any questions before you apply.